My Way Or The Highway

Tommy Alverson
Those considered icons in the Texas Music scene have not only hits that they can show but many have also a book about their lives. There are a lot of these books, e.g. by Willie Nelson, Johnny Bush, Gary P. Nunn, etc. Now you can read another one by none other than my good friend, Tommy Alverson. If you want to learn about the history of his rise to fame or the inspirations to many of his hits, then order his book “My Way Or The Highway” (ISBN-13: 979-8350919783).

Bruno Michel: Tommy, congratulations to you for a great book. What was the reason that you selected Randy Callison as your co-author? Tommy Alverson (TA): Well, actually, Randy has selected me. In 2017, during our Family Gathering, he came to our camper and told me that he plans to write a book. I said: Great. About what? And he said: About you. That was quite a surprise but here we are now with this book ready to enjoy.

Your co-author did a great job. I think your fans will love to learn about the stories behind many of your songs. Question to you, Randy: How did you as a retired dentist get write a book with and about Tommy Alverson? Randy Callison (RC): Well, I was not only Tommy’s dentist but I am also his friend and love him and his music. In my opinion, he deserved it that there’s a book about his life, his career and his songs.

But you have written books previously, correct? RC: No, that was my first. But I plan to write others in the future. TA: Oh, really? I didn’t even know that this was your first one (laughter).

Tommy, when Gary P. Nunn recorded your song Pickin’ And Grinnin’, he changed the lyrics by replacing his name in a line with yours, which gave your career quite a boost. Who else beside your dad, Rusty Wier or Gary P., was instrumental for the legendary status you enjoy today in Texas Music? TA: Right, that didn’t hurt one bit (laughs). It helped me getting more gigs. Regarding other influencers: Johnny Bush was most important for sure. He opened so many doors for me, got me to record with Willie Nelson and helped me to play at Willie’s picnic. And also, my friend Walt Wilkins. We are not rich in terms of money but rich with friendship, love and fans.

I remember well the Family Gathering of 2017, when Johnny played your gathering for the last time. We did an interview on his tour bus and his voice was quite weak already during the visit. But he managed to deliver an amazing performance and the fans loved to see and hear him. TA: When they started to treat his vocal cord issues with Botox, it was depending on how much time was between the last injection and the next gig. When we played with him at a show in Nocona, he constantly had to change the pitch of the songs to continue to sound well. But for me he sounded as good as ever, even shortly before his death.

When you were five years old, you already sang along some Elvis songs that your sister played on her record player. Then, when Elvis stopped by at the Round-Up café in Itasca, Texas, he gave you an autograph, which somehow you can’t find anymore. Are there other memories that you lost in all those years? TA: (laughs). Those were the days. But to answer your question: I can’t recall any other loss of a memory right now. But I remember something that I found again. When I recorded my album, Pickin’ On Willie, we had just moved from Arlington to Mineral Wells. We were in the studio to record the song Uncloudy Day. Once I had an old tape reel from 1953 or 1954, with my dad singing that song on it. I said to my wife, AmyCarol: I wish I could find that old tape. For some reason she had stumbled across that tape during our move and she gave it to me. It was like I had found a golden nugget. A friend of mine converted the tape into an mp3 file and we recorded part of it at the beginning of that song. When I heard my dad sing, it reminded me of Lee Marvin’s song I Was Born Under A Wanderin’ Star.

When you were in 7th grade you became a member of the band Renegades. Today, your band is called Western Deluxe. What has changed in those 60 years (except the style of music)? TA: what? Is it that long since then (laughter). Man, lots of things have changed. I played in many bands and with many different musicians. Back then it was more rock than country. But my current band with my son as lead guitarist and the other great members allows various singers. So, I don’t have to be the frontman all the time anymore. And we can still mix music styles. I am thinking of Ringo who recorded Act Naturally, which was also a hit for Buck Owens in 1963. Or the Beatles, who had songs by Carl Perkins in their set lists.

Randy, what was the biggest challenge when co-writing this book? RC: to bring everything in a chronological sequence. I received so many details from Tommy, his half-sister and other musicians, friends etc., that it was quite a challenge to sort everything in correct order.

Tommy, in your book you remember music festivals in Germany, where you shared the stage with Clay Blaker, and also the famous Craponne Festival in France, where you later played with your own band. Would you still be ready today to tour in Europe? TA: if the overall conditions are ok, I would be ready on the spot. It would be great to see all this old architecture in those towns again. And, of course, all the European fans, who live thousands of miles away from Texas but know all the lyrics to your songs. In Craponne we had a group of Spanish fans that wore self-made Una Mas Cerveza t-shirts and when we started to play that song, they rushed to the front of the stage and sang along.

According to your book, you married AmyCarol on the 1st of April in 2014. So, you’re quickly approaching your 10th wedding anniversary. It seems that this was no April Fools joke at all. Not only is she relentlessly working for your music business. She also ensures that you’re well fed with all her great cooking skills. We have a saying that goes: All good things come in three. That is also valid for your marriages, right? TA: can you see that I am well fed? (laughs). You’re right. All good things come in three. But with AmyCarol as my 3rd wife, I am sure that there won’t ever be a number four.

It’s pretty cool that one of your biggest fans is also a dentist. Especially when he helps you to write a book on top of all things. How emotional was it to remember all these stories and episodes, that are mentioned in the book? TA: Well, when Randy was still practicing, he always took good care of my or AmyCarol’s dental issues. But as a friend and co-author, he became even more important. Regarding your question: It was sometimes quite emotional, especially with those stories involving my parents. Or when some of the great friends are mentioned, that I have lost in the past. A few weeks ago, I read the part about Johnny Bush and it was just around the anniversary of his passing. That was quite stressful and emotional.

Last question to both of you: If you were to interview Tommy Alverson about his new book, which question would you ask him that I did not ask? TA: no idea. You asked things that I wouldn’t even have thought of (laughs). You are one of the few that I always like to sit down for an interview. I didn’t want to throw dirt on others in this book. Of course there would have been a few things to mention. But I wanted to keep it positive for all the fans and others who will read this book.

RC: How did you make so many friends among your fans and musician buddies, who love you. The answer is, because Tommy puts his heart and soul in everything that he does. Thanks a lot for the interview and much success with the book. I look forward to many more visits.